I've noticed a lot of people have trouble differentiating between 收 and 受.

Both their pronunciations and meanings are similar.

How to differentiate between the two?

What tricks and tips are there to remember when to use which? (Instead of the other.)

  • 1
    googled " 受 收 " ?This will bring up 2 websites discussing the issue, a 3rd requires registration。
    – user6065
    Dec 16, 2014 at 6:31
  • 1
    Receive vs. accept?
    – NS.X.
    Dec 16, 2014 at 19:01
  • My opinion is that 受 is used to describe a less specific situation, e.g. 受北方冷空气影响, while for 收, you can always picture as someone accepting things with their own hands. Dec 16, 2014 at 22:51
  • A broad generalization, in my view, to distinguish the two is -- 收 involves a physical act of receiving, while 受 is more a mental decision of acceptance. May 21 at 13:24

7 Answers 7


You may see the definitions of these two characters on zdic.net (maybe you already know), an online dictionary which is convenient for looking up the characters.

As a native speaker, I think (subjectively) the main difference of these two characters is that 收 emphasizes the action of receiving, gathering or reducing, and 受 emphasizes the finish of receiving an action, which is something sort of similar to the perfect tense.

I guess that your doubt comes from distinguishing 接收 from 接受? In some sentenses these two words are almost the same, for example:


But I still feel that there is a tiny differece as I said above, 接收 puts more significance on the action of receiving.

Another differece may be that, 收 is usually used with "concrete" things like gift, data, signal, while 受 is usually used with abstract things like suggestion, training, offer, and only some "concrete" things.

Hope it helps.


收 on zdic.net www.zdic.net/z/1a/js/6536.htm

受 on zdic.net www.zdic.net/z/16/js/53D7.htm


收 is an active action; 受 is a passive action.

  • 1
    Good one. Example: 我来收尸了 vs 我来受死了 Dec 17, 2014 at 5:05

In addition to answers above, here is a tip if you don’t feel uncomfortable with homosexuality. In informal language 受 can be used as a noun meaning "bottom" in gay terms, as opposed to 攻("top").

So you can see that 受 is passive compared to 收, e.g., 受到攻击->be under attack, 受伤->be injured, 受挫->suffer a setback, 受骗->be deceived, 收获->harvest, 收养->adopt, 收购->purchase, 收银员->cashier (customers would be delighted if the cashier didn't ask them for money^_^). The two characters can be even combined to one word 收受 implying the subject is active and/or passive during the process (收受贿赂->demand, receive or agree to accept bribes).

I hope this will help and please forgive me for any mistakes in English.

Added at the request of Mr. Ho (14/12/20):

The usage of 攻/受 is borrowed from Japanese ACG(Anime, Comics & Games), where it's known as 攻め/受け or seme/uke (not sure the spelling is correct because I don’t know Japanese). Here are some explanations from Wikipedia:


The web pages have been rated Not-safe-for-work-and-do-Not-view-it-in-the-presence-of-your-children for nudity and sexuality.

Seme and uke in Yaoi: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yaoi#Top_and_bottom_or_seme_and_uke

Slang in Chinese gay culture: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Homosexuality_in_China#Slang_in_contemporary_Chinese_gay_culture

A related widely used slang word 基友 (literally gay-friend) is worth mentioning. It denotes a close male friend of a guy regardless of his (or his friend's) sexual orientation, for example, 我要去参加一个基友的婚礼->I’m going to attend a good friend’s (the groom) wedding. However, some “genuine” gay men may consider the word offensive.

  • 1
    Do you have a citation for the top/bottom comment?
    – March Ho
    Dec 18, 2014 at 16:03
  • Hi @MarchHo, I have updated my answer. Sorry to keep you waiting.
    – guest
    Dec 20, 2014 at 7:11

I think the difference between 收 and 受 is easier to see with examples. In any case, it would be a mistake (and confusing) to consider them as the direct equivalent of the English "to receive".

受 seems to be used for immaterial things (such as feelings, influence, etc.) Its passive connotation really depends on the context or other words in the sentence/expression.


  • 他很受欢迎。 - He is very popular.
  • 他受到你的影响。- He is influenced by you. (which can be good or bad).

Even when the character 受 is used in words, it is for abstract things: 感受 (a feeling)

收 seems to be used for material things (a letter, a document, a SMS).


  • 我收到你的短信。 - I received your SMS.
  • 别忘记收垃圾。- Don't forget to collect the trash.

Same things here, when 收 is used in words, it describes material things: 收音机 - Radio (set). Literally the device receiving sounds.

Of course their might be other differences and details, but I think this is the big picture.

I hope this answer your question. I wish you pleasure and success in your studies!


收 is collecting, 受 is receiving

  • Hi Luke, thank you for your contribution! It would be better if you add more information with reference :D
    – George
    Mar 30, 2016 at 19:27

: 1. to accept; to receive 2. to gather; to collect 3. to put away 4. to retrieve; to get back 5. to conclude; to finish

: 1. to receive; to accept 2. an indicator for the passive voice 3. to bear; to endure 4. to be subjected to

From the above, this confirms that to 受 is a passive action.

To PJ Hades' example above, I would add to it with additional takes on the translation, that: 他接受了这份礼物。 --> He accepted the gift. He's taking it! It belongs to him now!

他接收了这份礼物。 --> He received the gift. As in, he physically collected or was handed the gift from someone else.


收 : Accept, ask for 受: be given

This shop accepts cash only. This award is given to the hero.

  • 4
    You are talking about 授 not 受 Dec 16, 2014 at 12:03

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